Stuston: Waveney farmer launched micro-maltings, bakery and shop complex

David Laurie, pictured at Place Farm in Stuston, is launching his own artisan bakery and micro brewe

David Laurie, pictured at Place Farm in Stuston, is launching his own artisan bakery and micro brewery. - Credit: Archant

A farmer has launched a micro-maltings and artisan bakery from a collection of farm buildings.

David Laurie, of Place Farm, Stuston, near Diss, gave an old barn that has served farming for centuries as a grain store, an implement shed, a chemical store and a site for converting chip oil to diesel fuel a new lease of life by creating the new food and drink development.

Local beer will be brewed on site, and artisan bread baked. Both products will be sold from the barn. David has ambitious plans for the site, and hopes at some later stage to incorporate a restaurant cooking food grown on the farm. He also wants to convert an area into a courtyard with seating where villagers and visitors can enjoy some of the products made on the farm.

The first phase, which opened last week, includes a small-scale plant that will demonstrate malt production from locally grown barley. It is set in a Victorian barn, previously used for farm storage, which will become the retail space where the beer and bread is sold. By-products from the processes will feed into the products, creating a virtuous circle started and completed on the farm. Even the wood used to fire up the artisan bread oven comes from hedgerow maintenance around the farm.

“Everything works around each other - that’s our intended aim,” said David. “I expect in spring time we’ll open fully to the public.”

Malt is an essential ingredient of beer, but is also highly regarded as a nutritious ingredient of health drinks and a flavour for bread and biscuits.

The micro-maltings will demonstrate the whole production process, reminding customers and visitors of how a traditional flavouring is made.

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Although each batch will be small, it is expected to be highly valued by brewers who will use it to produce unique, distinctive beers with individual tastes and character that can trace their ingredients back to individual fields on local farms.

David, a keen fan of local produce, worked with Brendan Moore, a brewer, and Teddy Maufe, who has already set up a similar brewery venture in Norfolk.

“It kind of evolved. I was toying with ideas around brewing etc. It’s all new to all of us. Brendan was brewing beer and wondering how to reconnect with the public,” said David. “The three of us got together.”

They decided it would be a good idea to set up a micro-maltings in three different parts of East Anglia. One prospective brewer dropped out, but Teddy and David pressed ahead.

“I’m very keen on educating the public I suppose,” said David. “I’m very keen on re-engaging the public with the countryside in a sensible modern manner. I want people to understand the countryside and how and why things happen in the countryside. This is a great way of explaining to them why they need the countryside.”

In the autumn, he will harvest his grain and begin the process of malting over the winter. He plans to provide some small-scale employment through the diversification.

“It’s a great way of boosting the rural economy, saving these buildings and hopefully helping employment. I intend to employ through it definitely. That’s part of the reason for doing it to bring work back into this area,” said David, who used to be a district councillor but stood down because of other commitments.

“There’s no pub in this village. There’s no village hall. I think the first stage is to get the village to enjoy it. We have got all these ideas and it’s how they all filter out.”

The restoration and refurbishment of the barn has been made possible by a grant from the Waveney Valley Local Action Group, using funds from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) Rural Development Programme for England – a programme supported by the European Union.

Local Action Group were established by DEFRA under the current Rural Development programme for England. They were allocated funds for capital development of farms for diversification and for the development of small-scale rural businesses.

Waveney Valley has provided about £2million in grants.

Grant application was from Barely to Beer Ltd, a small company set up to promote the better understanding of the links in the food chain from farmer to brewer and beer drinker, and to help promote the virtues of small-scale, artisan production.